Ye Must Be Born Again

Message by: Leroy Surface

Verily, verily, I say unto to you, Except ye be born again, ye cannot see the kingdom of GodJohn 3:3

The First Man

But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?  Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands:  Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. Hebrews 2:6-8

The first man is of the earth, earthy…1 Corinthians 15:45-50

In six days of creation God took the earth, which was without form, and void, and formed it into a thing of great beauty.  He filled it with all manner of green plants, fowl of the air, fish of the sea, and every animal of the dry land.  On the sixth day God looked upon everything He had created and saw that it was “good.”  Then He created man; He created him in His own image and gave him dominion over all the works of God’s hands.  Again, God look upon His creation and saw that it was “very good.”  The scripture says that God formed Adam of the dust of the earth, and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and “man became a living soul.”  David tells us even more about the make up of the first man in Psalms 8:4-6;  “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?  For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.  Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:”  Notice that man was made “a little lower than the angels.”  David used the Hebrew word “Elohiym,” which is normally translated “god,” and not “angels.”  The first man, Adam, was made a little lower than God, and was “crowned with glory and honour.”  What a picture we see of Adam as he was before the fall.  He was in the image and likeness of God, just a little lower than God.  He “breathed” the breath (Spirit) of God, and was crowned, or, adorned with the glory and honour of God.  He had dominion over all works of God’s hands, and everything was under his feet.  Adam walked and talked with God, and God worked with him.  Adam lived in a “paradise” called “Eden,” where every tree was “pleasant to the eye and good for food.”  Adam and God had perfect fellowship one with another until “Sin” entered through disobedience.

In the midst of the Garden of Eden were two trees, the “tree of life,” and “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”  God told Adam that he could eat of every tree of the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  He could eat of the tree of life, and live forever in this wonderful estate.  His children and all his descendants would have lived in paradise on earth.  They would all be born in the image and likeness of God.  All would breath His breath, and would be adorned with glory and honour.  Had Adam ate of the tree of life, the forbidden tree would doubtless have been taken out of the way, for Adam would have chosen life for himself and for all his seed after him.

Adam never ate of the tree of life, choosing instead to eat of the knowledge of good and evil.  Eve had been talking to the “serpent,” who, the scriptures say, was “more subtil than any beast of the field which God had made.”  The serpent questioned Eve about the command of God concerning the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  God had said they would “surely die” if they ate of it.  The serpent said, “Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”  The scripture tells us that Eve was deceived, and when she saw that “…the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” 

Immediately their eyes were opened and they “knew that they were naked.”  Before they ate of the forbidden fruit, Genesis 2:25 says, “they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”  Now, the shame of nakedness filled their hearts.  They took fig leaves and fashioned aprons to cover themselves.  When they heard the voice of God in the garden, they hid themselves from the presence of God among the trees.  They could not cover their shame, because it wasn’t due to the lack of natural clothing, but rather because the glory and honour of God was departed from them.  They no longer bore the image and likeness of God.  They no longer breathed His breath.  This was the death they died that day.  They were “fallen” from all that God had made them to be.  Adam had chosen, once for ever, and once for all of his descendants for all time; he had chosen “the knowledge of good and evil” instead of “life.”

The scripture tells of three things Eve saw when she looked upon the forbidden tree; “…it was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise.”  All the trees of the garden were “good for food.”  Likewise, all the trees were “pleasant to the eyes,” but here was the one tree in the garden that would “make them wise.”  Certainly, this was the deciding point in the deception of Eve.  She would be “wise;” she would be “as god.”  She would never have taken of the “evil” of the tree, only the “good,” but it was that which was good in her sight that destroyed both she and her husband.  Both Adam and Eve were indeed made wise, but it was what the scriptures condemn to this day as the “wisdom of this world.”  Their eyes were opened.  Even God said “behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever: therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken (Genesis 3:22-23).”  The next verse tells us that God placed “cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”  No fallen man, Adam, nor any of his seed, would ever eat of the tree of life.  His kind will never live forever.

In the days of Noah, God saw that “the wickedness of man was great…and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,” and it repented Him that He had created man, and it “grieved Him at His heart (Genesis 6:5-6).”  He determined to destroy His creation, but “Noah found grace in the eyes of God.”  For the next hundred and twenty years God waited while Noah built an ark to save his household from the flood to come.  Eight souls were saved in the ark, as well as a pair of every living creature God had created.  After the flood, God smelled the “sweet savour” of Noah’s sacrifice and said in His heart, “I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.”  Strangely, the same reason God gave for sending the flood to destroy man is the reason He now gave not to destroy them again by the waters of a flood.  The difference was this; after the flood, God said man’s imagination is “evil from his youth.”  This is perhaps the first acknowledgement that man is born in sin.  There had to be another answer for the sin that reigns in the heart of man. 

The Second Man

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. Hebrews 2:9

… the second man is the Lord from heaven.  I Corinthians 15:47

The answer is Jesus.  These four words, however, are too simplistic, for the problem with fallen man was such that it took the wisdom of God almighty to find the answer.  God could never accept fallen man.  Forgiveness was not enough.  God was always a forgiving God.  Fifteen hundred years before Christ, God proclaimed His name to Moses, saying, “The LORD, the LORD God, Merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin… (Exodus 34:6-7).”  Jesus did not have to suffer the cross to forgive man.  God has always forgiven those who humble themselves before Him and repent.  Our redemption is much more.  Romans 5:19 says, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”  That same heart of God that is “grieved” by the wickedness of man requires there be redemption for man.  Man, who is “born in sin” because of the first man Adam’s disobedience, must have opportunity to be “born again in righteousness” because of a second man’s obedience.  That second man is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and His obedience was “unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8).” 

The difficulty in redemption was that God could never be reconciled to fallen man.  Regardless of why man is a sinner, God will never accept sinful man.  Even if man exercised such “self control” that every sinful action were subdued, God could not accept that man because of the “imaginations of his heart.”  Even in the days of Noah, man was not destroyed for what he did so much as for what he was.  Jesus told the Jews that unless their righteousness “exceeded” the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, they would in no wise enter the kingdom (Matthew 5:20).  He explained it this way; the Pharisees taught the law and kept it to the letter.  They taught the people “thou shalt not commit adultery.”  There is no reason to believe they broke this commandment, but Jesus said if a man looked upon a woman to lust after her, he had already committed adultery in his heart.  The “righteousness that exceeds” is righteousness that proceeds from a “pure heart,” and not just from a law.  No fallen man has that righteousness.  There was “none righteous (Romans 3:10)” until after Jesus Christ, the second man, came and suffered the cross for us. 

Fallen man has had the death sentence hanging over him from Adam until this present day.  Fallen man is what the New Testament calls “The Old Man.”  Some would call him “The Adam Man.”  Regardless of what you call him, he must die; the sentence must be carried out.  In redemption, our old man is “crucified with Christ, and the body of sin is destroyed (Romans 6:6).”  The death sentence is carried out and the demands of justice against fallen man are satisfied; “for he that is dead, is freed from sin (Romans 6:7).”  If there is any among us who have never been “crucified with Christ” in this present lifetime, the death sentence will yet be carried out, but it will be in eternal damnation and death in the pit with the devil and his angels.

Peter tells us God has “begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  It is obvious that Jesus was crucified before He was raised again.  So it is with us.  Just as death had to come before resurrection for Jesus, death must come before new birth for us.  “We were reconciled to God by the death of His Son (Romans 5:10).”  He has reconciled us “in the body of His flesh through death…(Colossians 1:21-22).”  “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?”  Paul tells Timothy, “It is a faithful saying: for if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with him (II Timothy 2:11).”  Peter joins in; “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness (I Peter 2:24).”

Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:  1 Corinthians 15:36

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;  Ephesians 2:1

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)  Ephesians 2:4-5

And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;  Colossians 2:13

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 1 Peter 3:18

In each of these scriptures, with the exception of the first one, the word “quickened” speaks of our new birth; that we are quickened, or, “born again” by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  The first verse of this series establishes that nothing is “quickened” unless it first dies.  People continue to struggle because they have never died; yet they believe they have been born again.  They believe the source of their struggle is “The New Man” struggling with “The Old Man” within them.  Their teachers have told them they have two natures after they have been born again, and they must seek to subdue, or “crucify” their old nature.  They are mistaken.  No one has two natures.  The man in Romans 7:14-24 is an old man, a fallen man.  He is a son of Adam, born in sin because of Adam’s disobedience.  He wants to do “good,” but “evil” is present with him.  He is still eating of the knowledge of “good and evil.”  He thinks the “wisdom” he receives from that tree will bring him through his problem, but he is continually brought into captivity to the sin that is in him.  When he does evil, he cries, “It is not I, but sin that dwelleth in me.”  He tries harder, but the results are always the same.  He is told that he will grow out of this “weakness,” but it is the purpose of the “serpent” that deceived Eve to keep fallen man in deception.  He would keep man eating at the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Remember, it is “a tree to be desired to make one wise.”  “Philosophy (the love of wisdom)” is the fruit of that tree.  In dealing through human means with the sin that lies in the breast of every person, we all become “philosophers.”  Man’s wisdom will always fail, better sooner, than later.  It is only when this man reaches the place of Romans 7: 24, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death,” that he finds hope of true salvation.  His deliverance is “crucifixion with Christ.”  God will not force it upon Him, he must submit unto it, for it is the righteousness of God for fallen man.  Submitting to the death of the cross in repentance and faith, he will be “born again” of the Spirit of God.

The counterpart of the old man in Romans 7:14-24 is the man in Galatians 2:20-21.  He is a “New Man.”  He begins his testimony, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”  Notice the contrast!  The “Old Man” cries “not I, but sin that dwelleth in me;” the “New Man’s” cry is “yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”  The old man is disclaiming his failures: “not I, but sin.”  The new man is disclaiming his successes; “yet not I, but Christ!”  The new man continues, “…the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  He does not frustrate the grace of God (Galatians 2:21), because he knows that righteousness does not come by the law; neither does it come by the “principles” that man’s wisdom have given us.  Paul knew that even “preaching the gospel” by the “wisdom of words” would make the cross of Christ of no effect (I Corinthians 1:17).  Likewise, if righteousness comes by any other means than by our death and resurrection with Jesus Christ, then Jesus died in vain (Galatians 2:21). 

Philosophy

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.  Colossians 2:8

Philosophy, by definition, is “the love of wisdom.”  It is interesting to note that the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was a fruit “to be desired to make one wise (Genesis 3:6).”  When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, their eyes were opened (Genesis 3:7), and God said, “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.”  They became wise, but it was the “wisdom of this world,” which is foolishness with God (I Corinthians 3:19).  Paul left a warning to the church of all ages to “beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit.”  The Greek word interpreted “spoil,” means “to lead away as booty.”  Millions of “Christians” in America have been led away captive by these very things that Paul warned us against.  It was the same with Old Testament Israel.  Paul speaks of them in Romans 1:22 as, “professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”  Read the first chapter of I Corinthians, and you will discover the following:

1.     Preaching the “gospel” with wisdom of words makes the cross of Christ of no effect (seventeenth verse)

2.     The preaching of the cross is foolishness to those that perish (eighteenth verse)

3.     God said He would destroy the wisdom of the wise (nineteenth verse)

4.     God has made the wisdom of this world to be foolishness (twentieth verse)

5.     “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe (verse 21)”

6.        Those that sought wisdom considered “Christ crucified” to be foolishness (verses 22,23);

7.        Christ is the wisdom of God (verse 24)

8.     The foolishness of God is wiser than men (verse 25)

9.     Not many wise men of this world come to Jesus (verse 26)

10.   God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise (verse 27)

11.     Jesus Christ is made to be wisdom unto every child of God (verse 30)

Read the next chapter and discover for yourselves even more of the attitude of God toward the “wisdom of this world.”  When we see the spiritual condition of the church in America today, surely we must understand why Paul left us the warning against the “love of wisdom (philosophy).”  It has led the vast majority in the churches captive, and brought them to the “rudiments of the world,” and not to Jesus Christ.  They, with Eve, have arrived.  They eat of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

Some thirty years ago, the largest Pentecostal denomination determined that everyone seeking to be licensed as ministers in their organization must finish a study course in philosophy and psychology.  It was incredible to me that these men of God would submit themselves to the very thing the Apostle had warned us against over nineteen hundred years ago.  It was these things that led the church into the dark ages in that day, and it will do the same today if the church is not awakened.  As a result of the influence of philosophy, most people today believe that being “born again” is only a “hyperbole (an extraordinary statement not meant to be taken literally).”  If they make a “decision for Christ,” they think they are “born again,” but they confess that nothing really happened.  They are placed in counseling programs, which are nothing more than the “rudiments of the world” Paul warned us of.  As a result of religious philosophy, nothing is a “sin” as long as you “believe in Jesus,” or, the alternative is that everything is a “sin,” thus erasing the difference between the ungodly and the devout.  We have been robbed!  The thief has come in and stolen the truth of the gospel out of our churches, and left us with a cheap imitation that is powerless to save a soul.  The cross is gone, the blood is misrepresented, and another spirit has entered in. 

Born Again

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?  Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.  The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.  John 3:3-8

Jesus said, “Ye must be born again.”  Jesus uses the imperative “must.”  “It is necessary,” He said, “that you be born again.”  “Unless you’ve been born again you cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus was totally confused by this command of Jesus.  “How is it possible for a man to enter again into his mothers womb and be born a second time?”  Nicodemus’ confusion is understandable.  Never has such a thing been heard of in all the history of Israel.  Nicodemus was a teacher of the Jews, and a very devout man.  Never had such a thing entered his mind.  Jesus continues to expand His statement.  “Unless you’ve been born of water and of the Spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus understood being born of water.  He knew that he had been “born of water” from his mother’s womb, but what was this matter of being “born of the Spirit.”  Jesus continues to clarify, saying, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”  This much Nicodemus could understand, He had been “born of the flesh,” but to be “born of the Spirit” was beyond his ability to understand.

It is almost two millenniums later and almost everyone knows the terminology, “born again.”  I can remember when Jimmy Carter became president of the United States.  He openly professed to be born again.  The term “born again” swept the nation like wild fire.  It went from being an obscure religious term that was precious to those who understood, to a term that the world would drag through the dirt and dilute of all meaning.  It became the latest fad.  “Born again” became the label of everybody that had made a change, or of any product that had been changed.  Merchandisers advertised “born again washing powders,” “born again” cosmetics, toothpaste, breakfast cereals, etc.  It became a fad for people to be born again.  Even the publisher of the major pornographic magazine of the day professed to having been born again.  One of the top fundamentalist preachers in the nation baptized him in water and held him forth as a great “trophy” of the grace of God.  The “born again” issue of “Hustler Magazine” was announced.  When it reached the newsstands it was the same old pornography with a blasphemous religious twist, a cruel hoax against the truth.

Twenty-five years have passed since these things took place, and the end result is that the church of Jesus Christ has been robbed of the precious truth of what it really means to be “born again.”  The predominate thought seems to be that “born again” speaks of a “change of mind,” or, a “change of direction.”  Multitudes of people in the churches believe they are born again simply because they have repeated a prayer with a preacher: most likely a television minister, but possibly a pastor or evangelist.  Sinners come for salvation and the preacher says, “let’s get you ‘born again’,” and leads them to repeat a “sinners prayer.”  The churches have filled up with “born again” people that struggle continually with sin in their own hearts because they have never really been “born again.”  The church is just as confused as Nicodemus was concerning this great truth.  It is still imperative that we must be “born again.”  As such, it is “imperative” that we understand what Jesus meant when He said, “Ye must be born again.”

Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?  Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?  Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.  If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?  And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.  John 3:9-15

Nicodemus responds to Jesus’ admonition concerning being “born of the Spirit” with the question, “How can these things be?”  Jesus’ answer is actually given in the fourteenth and fifteenth verses of this text; “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”  In these words Jesus points Nicodemus to the “cross” that He is to die upon.  “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent on a pole, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up (on the cross).”  Again, Jesus uses that imperative “must.”  If Nicodemus “must” be born again, Jesus “must” be lifted up (crucified) on the cross.  There is no other way. 

The Righteousness of the Cross

Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.  For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.  For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.  Romans 10:1-3

This prayer of the Apostle Paul for Israel could well be prayed for multitudes in the church today.  They believe they are “born again.”  They have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  They are ignorant of God’s righteousness.  They, just as zealously as Israel ever did, are seeking to establish their own righteousness, and finally, they will not submit themselves to the righteousness of God.  In Romans 1:16-17 Paul says he is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, because “it is the power of God unto salvation….”  He continues, “for therein (in the gospel) is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, the just shall live by faith.”  The gospel reveals the “righteousness of God.”  Being ignorant of the righteousness of God, many zealous teachers believe the gospel is a system of principles that would make the Law of Moses seem to be an easy yoke to bear by comparison.  This we must understand, the gospel of Christ is not a “New Testament law.”  The righteousness of God is not a “lifestyle” commanded to the children of God.  The righteousness of God is revealed at the cross.  Paul said that God “set forth” His Son Jesus Christ, “…to be a propitiation (sacrifice victim), …to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past (Romans 3:24-25).”  “Christ crucified,” reveals both the “wisdom of God, the power of God (I Corinthians 1:23-24), and the righteousness of God.”  The mystery of the gospel is that “our old man is crucified with Christ…(Romans 6:6).”  The righteousness of God requires every child of Adam to be “crucified with Christ.”  This is the “righteousness of God” that Israel would not submit to (Romans 10:3).  God has never forced His wonderful salvation on anyone.  Before anyone can be saved they must first be convicted of sin.  Jesus said they will “hate” their life in this world (John 12:25).  They will “deny themselves (Matthew 16:24” as the multitude denied Jesus (Acts 3:13-14), crying “crucify Him, crucify Him (Luke 23:20-24)!”  They will “take up their cross and follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24).”  Bearing their cross to Calvary, they will “submit to the righteousness of God.”  It is no wonder there is such weeping and wrestling in the altars of God as a convicted sinner repents before God.  As long as he pleads his own righteousness he will never be saved.  If he makes vows and commitments at the altar and sets out to establish his own righteousness, he will never be saved.  Only as he “submits” to the “righteousness of God,” which is the “death of the cross,” will he rise up from the altar in newness of life, born again by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  I Peter 1:3

Peter tells us that it is by the “resurrection” of Jesus that we are “born again.”  Why then the cross?  It is obvious that there can be no resurrection unless there is first a death.  It is also true that it must be the death of the cross.  In Ephesians 2:5 Paul uses the terminology that we are “quickened together with Christ,” and adds in parentheses, “by grace ye are saved,” thus letting us know that “saved,” and “quickened with Christ” are synonymous terms along with “born again.”  These three terms express the same wonderful and full salvation, all by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  The secret of salvation is in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  The “mystery” of salvation is our “death, burial, and resurrection” with Jesus.  In His death we are “crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6, Galatians 2:20);” in His burial our old man is “put off (Colossians 3:9);” and in His resurrection we are “quickened together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5),” or, “begotten again by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (I Peter 1:3).” 

Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.  I Peter 1:23

The “new birth” is a real birth.  Peter tells us we are born again of “incorruptible” seed, by the word of God.  The last phrase of this scripture, “…which liveth and abideth forever,” is better understood as “…to live and abide forever.”  We are born again of incorruptible seed “to live and abide forever.”  Being born of the Spirit of God, we have a new heart and a new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26).  We partake of the divine nature (II Peter 1:4).  We are not sinners, for we abide in Him in whom there is no sin (I John:3:6, 9).

There is a misconception that has prevailed in the belief system of the church for several decades.  It is the belief that we are born again and yet there is no change in us as a result in that birth.  According to that thought it is after we are born again that we enter a “process” of sanctification and crucifixion that would result in our eventual “death” to sin.  All who hold to this tradition experience a struggle with sin that will continue as long as they are in this present world.  They will never know the “glorious liberty” of the sons of God spoken of by the Apostle Paul (Romans 8:21). 

When God created the “natural” creation, His first act was to create the “heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).”  The last and final act of creation was man.  Everything else was prepared before man was created.  In the “spiritual,” or, “new” creation, the first act of creation is a “new man,” and the last thing to be created is the “new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21:5).”  In the natural creation, man must be born before he can die, but in the spiritual he must “die” before he can be “born.”  Paul confirms this order in II Corinthians 5:17 where he says “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.  And all things are of God….”  Nothing “old” comes out of the grave with Christ.  Nothing old comes into Christ, because “old things” are “passed away.”  That is the language of death.  In II Corinthians 5:14 Paul says, “The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead.”  The Greek literally says, “…if one died for all, then they all died.”  This is the death that is necessary before there can be a new birth.  To reverse this order is to enter into a lifetime of religious struggle. 

We Can Know

Have you been born again of the Spirit of God?  You will never in your lifetime face a more important question.  It is not to be taken lightly.  Most would give a positive answer to this question based on some religious thing they have done at some time in the past.  It would be something they have trusted for salvation other than the pure gospel of Jesus Christ.  “I’ve been baptized,” or, “I’ve joined the church,” is the only answer many can give.  It is incredible to me that so many people go through life not knowing for sure.  Multitudes in America were baptized when they were but a child, or, maybe they prayed the sinner’s prayer when they were a teen-ager.  They have never lived for the Lord or served Him, but they somehow believe God will receive them at the last day because, as they believe, they have been “born again.”  Many years ago someone told me “the only way I can know I am a child of God is to confess that I am.”  Today, multitudes “confess” they have been born again, but just their confession is not the evidence that they truly are.  A person can live in a barn and confess they are a cow, but it will never be so.  To be a “son of God,” you must be “born of God.” 

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.  I John 5:13)

The Apostle John was over ninety years old when he wrote the epistle of I John.  All the other Apostles had died a martyr’s death almost thirty years before.  John was the last eyewitness apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.  False teachers had infiltrated the churches even before Peter and Paul laid their lives down for the Lord.  The church was taking a path that would bring it into a thousands years of darkness.  The reason John gave us this letter is found in the “theme” of the letter: “…that ye may know….”  He began with the words “that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)” John gave us a “record” of the life, the light, and the truth that was from the beginning.  False teachers were perverting the gospel of Jesus Christ.  John left us a record of that gospel which was from the beginning.  He calls it “the record that God gave of His Son (I John 5:10).”  He gave us numerous “tests” we could use to know the light from darkness, the truth from the lie, the Spirit of God from the spirit of anti-christ, etc.  Eight times he uses the phrase, “hereby ye may know….”  The following is a test he gave us whereby we would know if we are “born of God.”

John gives us four truths about those that are born of God.  Each of these is true of the Lord Jesus, and they are also true of everyone that is born of God (I John 2:8).  Consider these prayerfully and seek for understanding. 

1.     And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.  If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.  I John 2:28-29

“Everyone that doeth righteousness is born of Him.”  The standard in this scripture is that “He is righteous.”  John says in I John 3:7, “…he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous.”  An unregenerate person cannot do the righteousness that a child of God does.  Every attempt of a sinner to do righteousness is nothing more than “filthy rags” before God (Isaiah 64:6).  John further tells us in I John 3:10, “…whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”  This first truth is this; “Every one that is born of God is righteous and does righteousness.”

2.     Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.  I John 3:9

This is one of the most misunderstood and misused scriptures in the New Testament.  The “strength” of this truth is in the phrase “…for His seed remaineth in Him.”  This verse is a summary of the fifth and sixth verses above it.  “And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.  Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him (I John 3:5-6).”  Notice that it is “whosoever abideth in Him” that “sinneth not,” because “in Him is no sin.”  When the ninth verse says, “…His seed remaineth in Him,” it is those that are born of God, called “His seed,” that abide in Him, “and cannot sin because they are born of God.”  This second truth is this, “No one that is born of God continues in sin.”

3.     Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.  He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.  I John 4:7-8

This is another verse that has been greatly abused and misused, as each of these great truths often are.  “Every one that loveth is born of God,” has often been misconstrued to give comfort to “loving and kind people” that are also lost.  The “standard” in this scripture is two fold; “…love is of God,” and, “God is love.”  God is the only source of the love that is proof of the life of God in an individual.  Further, in I John 4:17, John tells us, “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”  Notice two things about “perfect love;” it gives “boldness in the day of judgment,” and it “casteth out fear.”  This specifically speaks of “fear of death.”  People fear death only because of the judgment that follows.  It is fear of standing before God to give account that brings terror to the hearts of most people.  John said perfect love, which God is the only source of, “casts out fear,” and gives “boldness” in the day of judgment because “as He is, even so are we in this world.”  Notice what the scriptures say “He is” in these first three truths.   #1. “He is righteous” (I John 2:29).  #2. “In Him is no sin” (I John 3:5).  #3. “God is love” (I John 4:8).  Even so, they that are born of God are “righteous;” they are “free from sin,” and they “love.”  The third truth is this; “Everyone that is born of God, loves with the love that only God is.”

4.     Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.  I John 5:1

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.  I John 5:4

Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? I John 5:5

This fourth truth is actually three different statements that are interconnected.  #1. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.”  This first verse of the fifth chapter of I John cannot stand alone, but is tied to the fourth verse by the fifth verse.  Notice!  #2.  “Whatsoever (whosoever, Greek) is born of God overcometh the world.”  Now, notice how #1 and #2 are tied together by #3. “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God.”  Jesus told us in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.  In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  Jesus is the “overcomer,” and overcame the world.  This third truth is this; “Everyone that is born of God is an overcomer, and overcomes the world.”

These are the issues of life and death.  More than that, they are the issues of “eternal” life or death.  I have not written these things to create doubt or fear in the heart of anyone, but we remember that Paul did tell us to “examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates (II Corinthians 13:5)?”  Some may say, “but, our denomination doesn’t teach these things,” or, “the reformation writers did not teach this doctrine.”  Isn’t it enough that the Apostle John taught it?  And Paul?  And Peter?  That it is the “record that God gave of His Son?”